Challenging the orthodox in residential development was the goal of a project for Dubai’s Business Bay which has been designed by boutique architecture firm FHSI.
The company convinced both the client and the authorities that open space between two towers would add greatly to the lifestyle of residents – and create a community rather than just a place to live.
Sterling Towers, close to the Burj Khalifa in the Dowtown area, have dispensed with the usual podium, which is a very common feature in high rises. Instead the towers rise from ground level.
Architect Fariborz Hatam explained: “Typically in Dubai’s Business Bay district, towers have continuous podiums, meaning the building starts 16m above the ground.
“These towers then use the podium area for parkingm but this discourages interaction between people and buildings.”
Sterling Towers, called the East House and West House, were commissioned by developer Omniyat with the aim of challenging the standard approach to high-rise development and set a new benchmark in the region for residential living.
Hatam said he felt that FHSI Architects “successfully challenged rules and regulations” by convincing both the authorities and client to push the podium into the basement in order establish a street level with commercial activities.
“This allows the end users to benefit from an immediate, secure and easy to access environment where people can experience and appreciate nature and landscaping within the built environment. They can socialise, relax and become part of a community,” he said.
FHSI said it sought to achieve a balance between a cost-effective development with sustainable environmental performance and top architectural quality.
Hatam said: “FHSI’s design strategies reduced unwanted solar and external conduction gains to enhance comfort levels, lower cooling loads and lower glazing cost while enhancing aesthetic appeal for occupants.
“As a result of reduced direct solar gain, which enables use of clear glass, clearer views to the upscale surroundings were achieved; increasing daylight penetration and aesthetic appeal for occupants.”
FHSI collaborated with engineers Buro Happold in developing physical and computational 3D models to test and refine ideas for the project.
The initial approach used a simple block design, informed by an internal layout approach and the space allowances of the site.
The process started with two straight blocks, which were re-oriented toward the south, roofs were tilted and shaped at the ground floor levels. The exposed east and west façades were made opaque and used to house distribution cores, before external shading was applied toboth the south façade and the roof.
Deep vertical shading was applied, which doubles up as privacy screens and provides shelter from southeast/southwest angled sunshine in the months of April, May, August and September.
Balconies were then designed to be run across the south façade, which would protect it from lower angled sun and glare in spring and autumn, while allowing deep penetration of daylight and improved opportunities for employing natural ventilation.
Hatam said: “By applying this approach, the reductions in external heat gains were immense. Typically, east and west façades are problematic in peak summer months, but due to this approach, much of the solar gain was reduced to virtually zero, while peak and annual gains were reduced by 80% and 40% respectively, for the south façade.
“These measures also provide a much more comfortable external environment, with the recess at the ground floor providing a natural shade feature for people entering or exiting the building and natural shading provided to the central and north-facing podium sitting in lieu of the main structures.
“These enhanced comfort levels were assessed through modelling of the shadow fall for each month of the year and through a high-level computational fluid dynamics analysis of the wind environment created by the building and their forms forms.”
A north to south landscape wedge acts as a green lung for the new development and as a new civic amenity. The open space between the towers creates an urban landscaped route.
Another factor is the location of the towers which are set slightly apart to allow views across Downtown Dubai, with the Burj Khalifa clearly visible between the structures.
The design team felt that this was another important aspect in providing an enhanced lifestyle quality, as the views of the high-rises and the greenery combine to provide an interesting contrast between a natural looking and solely man-made environment.
Hatam added: “The rational form was designed with constructability, efficiency and quality in mind. There is no point in designing flamboyant shapes that are neither efficient nor functional.
“Architecture should consider the entire project lifecycle rather than just short–term gains. We should be designing machines that stand the test of time and stand to mark the place for generations to come.”